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If Rocky Balboa can change, so can cricket

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Expert
10th January, 2019
12

And so to the one-dayers of India’s excellent cricket tour and it’s a bit like being presented with your granma’s cheesecake after a particularly magnificent long lunch featuring aged, marbled, rib-eye steak, and a ‘64 Shiraz, and beans from Iran, say, or Cuba.

Don’t know about the beans thing, or Cuba, all that.

But to be now getting into one-day cricket, much less the frivolous miasma of T20i, after that bloody Test series? I mean, nothing against gran’s cake, mind. But the meat of that Test cricket series was pure. It was succulent, magnificent. And storied. So very storied. And a few other things of note and of import. And so on.

It was bloody great. And Virat Kohli and his all-conquering mob of cricket experts spanked us but good. And scribes chronicled the series’ historical importance, and scholars rubbed their collective goat-beards and mused about what it can all possibly mean.

And the rest of us sat back and rubbed our tummies, and thought, These Indians are grouse. I like ‘em.
Because across a four- or five-Test series, you get to know people. You know them by one name. And now we not only know Virat Kohli, Ravi Ashwin, and Ishant Sharma at a pinch, we’ve come to know and admire Jasprit Bumrah, Cheteshwar Pujara and Rishabh Pant. Dear little Pant. What a ripper.

But cracking cricketers, all. And like the Windies of the ‘80s, who so mercilessly spanked us time and again, and really beat the stuffing out of our cricketers, we took to India. We liked ‘em. There was respect, admiration.

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And that, sports fans, has not always been the way.

But like Rocky telling the crowd in Russia after he’d towelled up Ivan Drago, “I came here tonight … and I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve seen a lot of people hating me… and I didn’t know… what to feel about that, so… I guess I didn’t like you much either. During this fight… I seen a lot of changing: the way you felt about me… and the way I felt about you. In here… there were two guys… killing each other. But I guess that’s better than a million. What I’m trying to say is… if I can change… and you can change… everybody can change!”

And here we are.

Where are we?

Friend, staring at a bunch of one-dayers that, well, they’ll still be pretty good. You’ll certainly watch them because it’s just what you do. It’s summer. It’s just… that’s it. There it is. End of. Don’t even speak to me. Insert gif meme here.

But after the mighty Viking feast that was the Test series, what’s the point?

I know there’s a point. Even a couple of ‘em. But money’s the main one.

There’s money in one-dayers because it’s content for the great god of television. The Television God loves cricket of all stripes because it represents content. And television loves content. Television is voracious for content so that it can sell advertisements and subscriptions to its entertainments, and sp pay the world’s cricketing troubadours to perform upon so many grand stages, under so many lights.
So yes, Television is a bit of a thing.

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But the content in this instance is still like granma’s cheesecake topping off a long lunch for the ages.

And yet who’s to argue with a largely benevolent god? Who’s to put a finger in the spigot of cash? Who’s to tell all the children of the world that their preferred brand of cricket is not as good as the old people’s one?

Answer: nobody.

Pat Cummins bowls vs England

(AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)

But 50-over cricket does need some jazzing up. And because the kids are so hot for that even-shorter-format, in all its magenta and aquamarine and colours of the Power Rangers, we should merge the short forms and have two sorts of cricket:

1) Test cricket,
2) T25x2.

Hear me out.

So you’d have this: 25 overs per innings. Each innings is like one little game.

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Australia goes out, belts 200 in its 25 overs. India goes out, falls 50 runs short, that’s one-nil to Australia.

Next innings, Australia goes out, belts 200 again. This time, though, India gets home with an over to spare.

That would make it 1-all.

And after that? Super over! The tie-breaker. The strike-breaker. Breaker breaker.

And so would flow all the frenetic big whack mad action you can eat.

Or it’d be 2-nil. And that’s okay.

Problem with 50-over cricket, for mine, is it’s predictable. The players have become so smart there’s little room for the unexpected.

A one-day innings is a template. And it goes like this: first 15 overs, go the tonk; next 25 overs, consolidate by pushing the ball down the ground for singles and keeping wickets in hand; last ten overs, throw the bat.

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Well – you get funky new T25x2 going, you get ‘em throwing the bat all day. You get the best of T20 cricket, and you get it for longer.

Plus you can see the big whackers bat twice. D’arcy Short snicks out first innings, never fear, he’ll be back and you see him whack it about again.

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Ratings bonanza.

A T25x2 would go as long as a one-dayer, which means the TV god has content from 14:30 to the news onwards through prime time until stumps.

And because whack-man like D’arcy get two goes, there’s a hundred highlights they can play and play, and replay.

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And that’d be good, wouldn’t it? Too right it would.

And lots better than granma’s cheesecake.